Washington, DC (SportsNetwork.com) - Troy Brouwer scored the game-winning goal with just 12.9 seconds to play and the Washington Capitals nabbed a 3-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2015 Winter Classic from Nationals Park.
The game appeared headed to overtime, but a penalty to Jonathan Toews at 18:47 gave the Capitals a power play, and just under a minute later a mid-ice faceoff was won by the Capitals that saw Alex Ovechkin bring it into the Chicago end.
Ovechkin had his stick broken at the left circle and lost control of the puck, but Brouwer was there for a turnaround shot that beat Corey Crawford for the lead.
"When I saw the puck laying at his feet when he broke his stick, somebody had to try to keep alive," said Brouwer. "So I turned around, threw it to the net. I'm not sure where it even went in, but I heard the noise of the crowd, heard the noise of the guys on the ice, and it was one of those where you know the time, you know the score, and you're just trying to get a puck on net, and thankfully it went in."
Braden Holtby then sealed the victory with a tough save on a Patrick Kane shot just before time expired to give the Capitals their second victory in the New Year's Day event.
Washington had won a 3-1 decision over the Penguins at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh in 2011, and is now the first team to win two games at this annual event.
Ovechkin finished the game with a goal and an assist, while Eric Fehr also lit the lamp for the Capitals, who had come into the game having lost two of their last three games. Holtby finished the game with 33 stops.
"The whole day was unbelievable," said Ovechkin. "It has been outstanding. The atmosphere on the ice, like, since first second was like unreal. It's a good one before all our lives, and I'm pretty sure I'm going to watch this hockey game and we'll enjoy it."
Patrick Sharp and Brandon Saad scored for the Blackhawks, who have lost both of their Winter Classic appearances as the team dropped a 6-4 decision to Detroit at Wrigley Field in 2009. Crawford made 32 saves.
"It's a fun process, it was a great experience, I think that we could have left here with a point, we would have been a lot happier with the whole build- up and the whole thrill and experience," said Chicago head coach Joel Quenneville. "The fans were great. They're just a little happier than we are today."
The first good chance came three minutes in when Brooks Laich skated in on a 2-on-1 break for the Caps, but his shot from the right wing was blocked away by Crawford.
Just under seven minutes in, the Blackhawks had their own good scoring chance as Saad threw a shot on net that Holtby blocked and then blocked Saad's follow-up backhander during 4-on-4 play.
With each team still down a man, the Caps got on the scoreboard as Brent Seabrook misplayed the puck at the right point in the Washington end.
Fehr caught up to the puck near the Chicago blueline and went in on a short break, shifting from the backhand to the forehand and sliding it just past the left pad of Crawford for a 1-0 lead at 7:01 of the first.
The teams switched sides at the midway point of the first period, and the Capitals made it a 2-0 game two minutes later as strong work in the Chicago end saw Ovechkin finish off a rebound in front off a Mike Green shot from the right point.
Chicago, though, got on the board 1 1/2 minutes later on the power play after Nicklas Backstrom was called for holding. A left circle faceoff win saw Chicago control the puck in the Washington end, and Sharp wristed the puck in from the high slot with Andrew Shaw providing a screen in front.
The Caps nearly regained their two-goal edge less than two minutes into the second as Ovechkin beat Crawford with a wrister from the right wing, but the shot rang off the crossbar.
The Blackhawks tied the game at 3:15 of the second thanks to a good bounce. John Carlson had the puck to the left of his goaltender and tried to backhand a pass off the backboards, but the disc sat there at Marian Hossa was able to grab it.
Hossa then sent a quick pass out front to Toews, who quickly passed it over to his left where Saad had a wide open net for his ninth goal of the season.
The Blackhawks had a solid chance to take the lead later in the second, as the team skated 5-on-3 for 1:31 after a pair of minors from the Caps near the midway point, but they were unable to generate any opportunities.
"You don't score on five and threes, you generally don't win and that ended up being the result," said Quenneville.
Chicago went just 1-for-6 on the power play, while Washington finished the game 1-for-4.
Temperature at game time was 41 degrees, with much of the ice under the sun, thereby necessitating the teams switching sides in the first period to equalize any advantages. In the second and third periods, the entire ice was under shade, and there was no side-switching ... There will be one other outdoor game this season on Feb. 21 between Los Angeles and San Jose at Levi's Stadium, home of the NFL's San Francisco 49ers ... Toews' assist on Saad's goal gave him two goals and three assists in outdoor games, most in NHL history ... It was Chicago's third outdoor game overall, as the team hosted the Penguins at Soldier Field last season.